Without county dispatch but with lights flashing and sirens whaling, fire trucks and command vehicles made their way through the streets of my Township Saturday. It was the annual Santa Run for the Palmer Municipal Fire Department which for the past few years takes the time to gather gifts from residents, delivering them to local children. It’s a massive effort that starts weeks in advance. But in the shadow of the hundreds of volunteer hours and careful logistics, one unscripted moment stood out above the happy parents, platters of cookies and ecstatic children (actually, the cookies were a close second).
From between two cars, what appeared to be a father and son emerged calling to St. Nick. Santa stopped, turned with a twinkle in his eye and made his way through the slushy snow towards the duo. The tender attention the older man showed the teen revealed a special care. As Santa approached with a candy cane, the young man’s eyes widened, and a slight smile cracked his face. “It doesn’t take much, does it Frank?” I said as we gazed through the windshield of Rescue Engine 2711. “No, it doesn’t, it sure doesn’t.” was the reply from the driver as we shared a sacred moment in the life of a special needs teen.
It doesn’t take much to alter a day, to bring happiness. It would’ve been awkward for Santa to have ignored the boy, mounting his diesel sleigh and moving on with the mission. But this Santa chose to pause, in light of eternity, to make a significant difference. A difference that was immediately tangible.
“I see you, and you matter.”
Years ago I heard a story of an older man who sat distraught in a church. Having pressing struggles, he’d decided this would be the last day he attended, both church and life. But a hand on his shoulder from an unaware man changed all of his thoughts instantaneously. What that touch said was, “I see you, and you matter.” It was all that was needed to wash away the gut-deep hopelessness.
A small note arrived at the desk of an insurance broker. In the sixteen years of her career, advocating for people haggard by huge medical bills, no one had bothered to thank her, at least not this way. But today, a hand-penned note from a cancer survivor made all the difference. The broker took a moment to send an email she’d never sent before to say, “Thank you.”
It doesn’t take a much to bring joy. Some efforts are extraordinary and require resources beyond what one person can provide, like the PMFD Santa Run; the entire crew slew a Goliath task. But the impact I saw on Saturday as a red and white peppermint stick passed from an elf to a boy made me remember the kind of change I can facilitate every day. No, it doesn’t take much, but what it does take is an intentional focus off of self. It takes just a moment, but moments seem so rare these days as we rush in myopic hurriedness from one task to another.
...in humility consider others better than yourself.
A while back I’d made a decision to smile at people as I was out and about. A grin in the grocery store, a gleam at the gas station were always returned. I can’t claim to have always nailed it - sometimes I’m the one needing the smile - and I’ll miss it a dozen times again, but what I can do is follow a very simple rule - in humility consider others better than yourself.
So, as we enter the home stretch of the holiday season prep, can we take a moment every morning to remind ourselves that people matter? Can we intentionally put aside our agendas and task-driven lives to take small moments that say, “I see you, you matter” to those around us? It can be embarrassingly simple like poking your head into your employee’s office to say, “Hi, how are you, today?” It can be picking up flowers for your spouse or a gentle touch on the shoulder of your child or maybe getting coffee for a coworker or smiling in the grocery store. You won’t always nail it, but it can be the difference that changes a life. It doesn’t take much.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4
Special thanks to Palmer Municipal Fire Department for allowing me the privilege of serving as their Chaplain. Their sacrifice and service to the township do not go unnoticed. I’ve enjoyed every crazy minute of it!